It is fitting to me that Barrack Obama decided to focus on personal responsibility when he spoke today. I have actually given this idea a lot of thought over the last few months. I have always taken a great deal of responsibility for the things I do and the things that come to pass in my life. At times I have done this to a fault, accepting responsibility for things I cannot single-handedly control but always wishing I could. To me, Obama is the epitomy of responsibility. I rest easier knowing that he will do everything within his power to make things right. He was absolutely right to call on citizens to also take personal responsibility for change.
My deep hope is that his message actually gets through to people. I realize he cannot do this all alone. None of us can but we must take responsibility for our own little corner of the globe.
Here begins my brief rant... I have become increasingly frustrated with my students lately because of their unwillingness to take responsibility for anything that happens to them. Obama is right to say that we need to improve education in this country but to do this, we will also need a major increase in personal responsibility on the part of parents, students and the community at large. Some educators may be failing our students but the responsibility does not lie solely with individual teachers and school districts, it lies with everyone involved.
During a typical day I listen to endless student complaints. I literally touch almost every desk in the room and have an individual conversation with each kid to get them started on their daily warm up. My classes are entirely routine-based, objectives and agenda are posted and I go over my expectations in detail in English and Spanish for every class. Usually I repeat myself multiple times and then walk around to each student. Still, over half the class does not get to work. Then I poke and prod at every kid and still at least a third of the kids still drag their feet. I have some students who just expect an "A" and get offended when I don't give them a perfect score and offer them feedback. Many of them act like I am mean for asking them to be silent when I talk, put away their cell phones and do the assignment. They act shocked when I take points off their participation grade. They also act shocked when I take points for their continual cheating and copying. Some of them never even take responsibility when they are caught red-handed in the act of copying and/or cheating. I get questions like, "Miss, why you put me an F?" Why indeed? You did nothing and you earned the F. The concept that grades are earned has not registered with most of my students. No wonder education is a mess.
All this said, I still take personal responsibility for what happens in my room. I try to focus more. I rewrite my plans in pursuit of greater excellence. I conference with students and parents about grades and behavior. I own my role in the room and I take responsibility when I am not on. Like Obama, I just want those I serve to take some responsibility because no one person, no matter how amazing, can do it alone.